When I first took a Gender Studies MSc, I was aware that it wasn't popular. I mean shit, I actually experienced violence at home because of what i wanted to study and was chucked out of my home. Until I was accepted at a prestigious University, I was absolutely in the dog house for my interest in the field. I remember my aunt trying to talk me out of it. That there was 'no future' for me there. That was the main reason why I applied to a prestigious University, to get my family off my back. Despite all of this negativity, something inside me knew that this was right I was determined to do this. Even though the outside world did not appreciate it (this was around 2013), I knew it was profoundly important. That it was intrinsically vital to the world and to my own future to study gender studies. The reason I knew it was pivotal was because I have spent my life witnessing and being harmed by gender-based violence. But even though I had this feeling it was quite a stigmatised area, I have to say, the extent and the depth of the hatred, the resistance, the ignorance, around these themes has been quite tough, isolating and exhausting to navigate. I'm sure many of you know what I'm talking about.
It has been a mixture of horror, surprise and relief to see feminism rise in popularity and diversity issues begin to come to the fore. But, we must never assume that from now on this is a steady, linear line of progress. We must also never forget how this is only happening because of exceedingly high amount of disturbing reports that have been released to the public. Because nothing else worked. That these things have been brought into the spotlight by brave people, so it's not exactly like it's - as someone put it to me - a 'success'. Many of us knew things were this bad for a long time, we have been speaking about it for years and have been ignored. It is exhausting seeing more vulnerable people have to talk about their most difficult experiences to the public (which will cause re-traumatisation for them at the very least) to get people to actually HAVE TO GIVE A SHIT. I don't really think that can be so easily considered 'a success'.
At the same time, I was in many ways not surprised to see this happen At the same time: thank goodness that tackling power dynamics is considered more seriously. More of a priority. A privilege, (a gift and a curse), of studying gender studies is that these areas almost give you a sense of foresight. The whole point of gender studies is to see what is unseen. To see power dynamics, assumptions, the status quo, and how different categories of people and things - everything in our world - are devalued and valued. Often this is unfortunate and upsetting foresight. Things have had to change in relation to these issues. They have to be addressed, there is little alternative. Things certainly could not have stayed the same any longer.
What many people who have any interest in power dynamics, intersectionality, feminism, gender studies (they are all related) will understand is the immensity of the stigma against the subject. The often undisputed hatred towards it and its proponents. Some of the reason for this is because it is not understood. This education around gender studies has historically been a privileged form of knowledge that it is quite inaccessible. It is one of many reasons why. If I use my own experience as an example: anytime you mention anything to do with it, you can be attacked, cast aside, judged or many other behaviours can happen. Don't even get me started on if you mention the word 'feminist'. Jesus. It's like Armageddon. Like it is a dirty, toxic, deathly word. You will get the same patterns of aggression, or defensiveness. People shutting down the conversation. 'Huh? You think men and women are the same do you?!' 'Why is it called feminist, why can't it be called equalitiest?!' 'What about men though?!' WHAT ABOUT MEN THOUGH?!' 'YOU MAN HATER'. -_- sigh. I have had people try and start actual fights with me about it. Ridiculous.
The Curse of studying Gender Studies
These have been said to me hundreds of times for just mentioning the field, and it would be common for someone to start getting aggro for me just referring to what I studied after they asked me 'so, what do you study?'. I have to be careful about whether I mention my MSc, or how to phrase it. Judging by the context, I often avoid mentioning what I have studied. I have even been socially humiliated for this interest. We must question why this happens? There is sometimes such thick hatred towards feminists which is linked to the same hatred that exists towards women, and any other marginalised group or any work pertaining to improving their standing in society. There is a documentry called 'Follow This' and an episode on Men's Rights groups and it also states that these kind of behaviours and kinds of anti-feminist groups do not seem concerned with actually improving the lives of men, which is what feminist work is actually about. It is about improving the lives of everyone.
The views against it are often factually incorrect, tiresomely repetitive and simplistic. They also licit such passionate and strong emotions in people that when there are conversations about it, people aren't actually listening to each other. So why should I waste my time? I won't anymore. Not only is all the above difficult and exhausting, but the actual experience of learning about power dynamics can be very disturbing in itself.
So, in light of these struggles, remember to support your local feminist! ;D
Another thing that these conversations do, time and time again, is work to just silence people or to put the focus souly back onto men immediately (as if we are not all linked). Focusing on marginalised groups is not mutually exclusive to the interests of men. The binary is not real. People assume that by helping one group that you are 'oppressing' the other. That is simply not true. Firstly, the oppositional way that gender is thought of allows the oppression to happen in the first place. Investing in marginalised experiences does not oppress the privileged. The valued, masculinised side of traditional notions of the binary (men) is considered human and the devalued feminine side (women) is de-humanised. So, re-humanising women does not make men any less human. It might mean that they loose some privileges but losing privilege is VERY different to being oppressed. It is not fair in the first place for those privileges are lumped onto only a few people.
Why the Haters?
Why there such intimidating behaviour towards people who understand power dynamics? Well, the first reason is because they are seen as a threat. And they are. But it's good that they are. They are threatening to the status quo which damages everyone. They are stigmatised because they understand the status quo and are doing effective work to change it. Any progress that has been made in terms of the rights of marginalised groups is directly because of their work on this. And anyone that is a threat to the status quo will receive a huge amount of resistance. Anything can be said or done to stop this from happening will be said and done. To shut them down. This includes death threats and cyber-attacks. The same can be seen with Anarchism. The amount of stigma out there that exists towards Anarchists is huge, and most Anarchists I've met are lovely, anti-fascist, earth loving people who would probably sort the world out much faster than current politicians. The stigma is very strong against them because they challenge the fundamental makeup of our current society. That is why there is such a reaction. Even though it is precisely what we need: a drastic change of society and culture is needed for the kind of future that we are heading towards.
'Men's Rights Activists' and Anti-Feminist Trolls
Online the behaviour is even worse. People often talk say 'Whatever you do! Don't read the comments section!' on YouTube. But, have we ever really questioned why it is so disturbing and toxic there? Can't we start to change and challenge that dynamic? You can easily see this for yourself. Any pro-equal rights or feminist content online is bound to have a lot of trolls attacking, commenting, harassing, disliking, and threatening the people who make that content. We can see that some serious work is being put put into devaluing these kinds of people and this kind of content. So much time, energy and work is being put into making those producers, presenters and people feel disempowered and at risk. Fearful. They are often done by MRA's. These are so-called 'Men's Rights Activitsts'. As I have said a thousand times, feminism is not attacking men. It is actually doing the opposite. And usually MRA's are radical, oppositional, and the belief systems that they preach is exceedingly toxic for everyone, men included. They are actually harming work on improving the lives of men. Their main goal seems to be preaching hate towards women, feminists, and blaming them for everything. This kind of work exacerbates, not improves, the damage on people – whatever gender they are.
This is the opposite of what we all need. Women are already dehumanised and hated in our misogynistic world. That's what misogyny is. Any time you talk about a marginalised experience, MRA's will jump in and try and shut it down. They will blame marginalised communities and identities for any suffering that men go through. They hide the real issues behind these opinions. They will tell you off for not focusing on men. How dare you talk about anyone else?! Yes, men are important, but they shouldn't be focused on at the expense of everyone else. No. These are NOT opposite initiatives. It is not mutually exclusive. By speaking about people that are never spoken about, who don't sit in government, who aren't on the board, who aren’t managers, who don't have a voice: that is NOT squashing men at all. When this happens online, the MRA's or rolls will continue till they shut down the positive work being done. As the world starts to pay more attention to diversity and damaging power dynamics, the radical groups against this are getting more popular, radical, and worse. One MRA is even responsible for a terrorist attack in Toronto (MRA van attack).
If you are unfamiliar with this kind of behaviour (lucky) and want an example of the kinds of things that I'm referring to, check out any feminist-related content on YouTube, reddit, and/or read up on women's experiences on gaming. The comments will be filled with aggro dudes and/or tons of trolls and people from the MRA community women-hating and feminist-bashing to their hearts content. Comments upon comments of hate and abusive, misogynistic and usually sexualised messages. I've experienced that many times myself, including on my conference talks on ecofeminism. Even with my own YouTube content. One on how Feminism Loves Men - seriously. How can that be an issue for MRA's? If they actually cared about men? They didn't even watch the video or listen to what I said. They were just there to intimidate and silence me.
Abusive Behaviour in Gaming
The privilege and difficulty of learning about power dynamics is you can apply it to so many things and see disturbing happenings. The same can be seen in the gaming community. As soon as anyone seems to be from a marginalised grouping (women, black, and/or queer) they are soon harassed by this seemingly huge amount of MRA's and hyper aggressive gamers. They have seemed to convince themselves that now the offline world is becoming more diverse, the online and gaming world is 'theirs'. A last stronghold where they feel they have the right to be disturbingly oppressive. That it's 'their territory'. Even though it was a woman who was the first computer programmer. Even though statistically (if we include mobile games), women play more games then men. The idea that this is 'their territory' is an illusion. And it's not okay. The digital world should not belong to the smallest and most privileged sectors of society. Computer programming was the world of women until the industry became more lucrative. Then, low and behold, men started to taking over the field. And now the tech industry is as it is today.
Threats whilst I've been gaming have included violent and sexualised threats. Time and time again, I have been harassed whilst gaming. Initially I just carried on as it was so normalised and I didn't think much of it because I was so used to that kind of bullshit. At some points I would pretend I was a boy to get people to leave me alone. I have stopped gaming before because of it - which is exactly what this kind of behaviour is trying to do. It is trying to make spaces too dangerous for us to exist in. As I have gotten older - as I have learnt about feminism and diversity - I can see how messed up this was. And that is another reason why people think feminism is a threat. Because, learning about these things allows us to see through lenses that we didn't have before. It means we stop damaging accepting behavior that was always considered acceptable. That is another reason why there is so much reaction against it. People rise up against what is oppressive when they know what is up. That power is what is threatening, that knowledge. The people that fear this don't realise that it good for them as well.
Remember: Support your local Feminist ;D
Why would people be so resistant to people being treated like people? I ask you to start supporting and helping these people who are speaking up about inequality, diversity and damaging power dynamics. The point of these reactions and these kinds of radical groups of people is to silence marginalised communities. They don't seem to understand that losing privilege is not the same as being oppressed. It is not a bad thing for privileged people to start questioning and losing some of their privileges when those privileges cause so much harm and damage to themselves and. They don't seem to make anyone happy - the privileged included.
The Future Better be Diverse - Deal with it. Celebrate it
Can you imagine the future if we don’t address inequality? When the shit hits the fan environmentally and socially the most marginalised people - which is most of the people in the world – are going to really suffer. So yeah, we better start giving a shit.
The online community and the gaming community are comprised of a certain demographic. Largely because of neo-colonial history, these are the countries who have the biggest online presence. This is usually Anglo-American or European people. White Anglo-American men are usually the most vocally. There is an illusion that this is space is 'their space'. It has become another site of patriarchy and now a small demographic dominates online world. Digital world is very important, and some might say equally important, than the non-virtual world. But it will become more diverse in the future, as there are going to be millions more joining the internet in the future, largely from countries such as africa (only 17% regularly accesses the internet at the moment) and other groups that are rarely represented.
The gaming industry is also aiming to spread itself more into diverse markets – primarily to make more money from varied users and audience members. These issues need continually addressing, therefore, so that we make sure that these spaces aren't colonised by oppressive groups of people. We should all have the right to play and access the internet, and any attempts to express a view that is not in line with MRA, or neo-colonial toxic masculine modes of thinking should not be threatened and silenced. They should not be policed. Surely, that represents how very bad these power dynamics have become? I would urge people to support their buddies who explore gender studies, power dynamics, and feminism. It is not an easy field to exist in, I can promise you that.
Rant over :) <3
Content Note: Disturbing themes below.
The festival/hippy/psychedelic community is becoming filled with rich techies, take Burner for example. One of the problems of having a community brimming with extremely privileged people possessing a lot of power is that when things go wrong, the community doesn't want to lose their privileges and so doesn't help or really address the issues. This makes people feel able to do as they please. I've just watched The perfect storm: building a crypto-utopia in Puerto Rico and was left feeling incredibly disturbed and angry. These are clear neo-colonial practices that these white neo-hippy technies are imposing on the local communities. Don't get me wrong, I'm kind of joking in a way when I say that I hate hippies. It has become almost comical, a way for me to deal with what I went through in these spaces. In terms of actually being an ecofeminist, i'm still a bit of a hippy. I mean, I talk to plants for gods sake. <3 It doesn't mean when I meet a hippy I dislike them immediately or that I don't have hippy loved ones. This anger comes from a fully-fledged ex hippy. I spent 8 years committed to hippy and psychedelic communities, ones which I have thankfully left due to experiencing a huge amount of trauma there. I can't distinguish what I went though from an experience of someone leaving cult. It was really difficult trying to leave - it was incredibly painful extracting myself.
When I worked in one particular organisation in these communities, my role was working on diversity issues there which, of course, maxed me out. It was very frustrating, as usually I wasn't allowed to do really effective work. There was again this exterior representation of 'feminism', and an external concern with 'equality', but then things going on in these organisations and communities that were unacceptable but weren't addressed. I myself experienced a lot of disturbing things. For example, when I started having a boyfriend, the founder of the organisation demoted me and replaced me with someone they had been having sexual relations with. That is wrong on so many levels. How fucking creepy is that. Being punished for having a boyfriend is sexual harassment by definition, and when I raised these issues, I was gaslight and frozen out of important activities.
When I was growing up, I didn't understand why people were quite anti-hippy. I grew up in Brighton, so being a hippy was second nature to me. What do I mean when I say hippy? I'm mainly refering to a certain mindset, a new age culture which is linked very much to a festival culture. When I started to talk about my difficult experiences, many others where very familiar with the creepy hippy stereotype. This comes from somewhere very real. For example, because of the supposedly 'woke' and, claimed 'new ways' these communities looked at relationships, they are extremely touchy. Hugging everyone you meet all the time and touching lots is an expected standard, and while that can be nice with the right person, I experienced many hugs that where assumed and made me feel uncomfortable. That would linger a bit too long, that made me feel gross and frightened. It has contributed to the situation that I am in now where I am very awkward about touch.
Recently, I went to a psychedelic talk. One of the presenters I could immediately tell was one of these creepy types. He talked about this experience where he tripped and literally became a messiah. After the talk I met with others who all voiced how uncomfortable they felt with him. 'Did you see the flyers that he was giving out?' someone asked me. They were handing out flyers for his tantra lessons *shudders*, which filled me with absolute horror. He didn't mention this in the talk at all, and it felt incredibly sly way to advertise these 'lessons'. I've heard of a lot of bad things happening in these spaces, so I immediately felt alarmed by this. Not that I'm against healthy relationships, but I sincerely doubt - from hearing many stories and from experience - that a necessary level of training will be given to things such as consent and boundaries in order to actually allow healthy relations. Many parties that i went to had areas where it was a 'sex party' which I was never a part of, but I always remember feeling that these spaces didn't feel safe enough or mature enough to be hosting such events. People have to go through a lot of training to be able to host such activities in a way that is healthy for all those who participate. Take the 'Edgy' Slave Market Place for example, how seriously racist and damaging that sex-centric festival activity had.
Once I hosted an event which looked at gender, sexuality and psychedelics. The focus of the event was feminist, yet one of the community members independently tried to host an orgy after my event, using the title of the event to indicate that it was supported by the organisation, and was a part of the event that I was organising. Obviously, I hit the roof about it. The founder of the organisation relinquished all responsibility, so I dealt with this one my own. The founder also changed the picture of the event to two women being sexually engaged, which is totally inappropriate for a FB event page for so many reasons, and this I also was NOT OKAY with. Their reaction to my protest was 'I'm in charge, so what I say goes'. After a lot of work and emotional labour, I got to fix these gross issues. For one, being 'sexually liberated' does not mean shoving sex in everyone's faces at every opportunity. The 60s and 70s sexual movement was riddled with abuse and patriarchy, and it is not something that should be repeated, though I'm afraid that is what is happening. They need to be spaces where people who are asexual or have been sexually traumatised also feel safe. Also it was clear over sexualisation of lesbian activity for the male gaze which is so messed up in itself. I could go on...
I am sick and tired of people using the 'egalitarian', 'one love' 'feminist' guise to excuse their creepy neo-colonial, racist, kyriarchic behaviours and practices. All it seems to be is a concern with getting laid and getting smashed and using this rhetoric as a means to an end. Well, I don't fucking buy it. F U C K O F F. It is also incredibly dangerous, because at least if someone is obviously dangerous, we get to consciously avoid them like the plague. But it is much darker, and I would argue much more harmful, when someone claims one thing on the outside and then their behaviours and the behaviour of their community actually mirrors the opposite. They gain people's trust and loyalty and then betray that. Really disturbing, damaging and oppressive practices. This insidious experience is particularly hard to pin down - especially before the damage is done - and it is easy to gaslight those who have been harmed like I myself experienced. This bullshit uses these guises to assert themselves as 'peacekeepers', as 'doing the right thing', as 'tantric masters' *snorts* or 'healers'. Talk about a white savoir complex! And we know how all that peacekeeping bullshit ended.
I have heard countless stories of being people abused by supposed healers, and in communities that are supposed to be 'enlightened'. So, what can be done about it? These are complex issues, but I'm glad that some work has always been and continues to be done. Well done to all those working to improve things! I've been privileged enough to have written articles on these subjects, and have done work wherever I can even though I have promised myself, because I find this area so re-traumatising, to take care of myself, to walk away from this field. After lots of public outcry against some oppressive behaviors and revelations of sexual violence happening in these communities, in one instance some people got together to create policies that would help make places safer. Even though I had left, I was still doing what I could on this behind the scenes and monitoring what was happenings. Some of the reactions, especially form those most privileged indeities, where absolutely disturbing. I remember one comment saying that instead of having these policies to protect people to actively trigger them instead, as, and I quote them: 'I want to get my teeth into people's problems'. G r o s s . Get away. I don't want your teeth in my issues thank you very much. These policies were rejected by that particular community on the grounds that they were opposing peoples rights. People's rights to do what exactly?! Harass and abuse others? How is that in any way a reasonable reason to reject them? Instead of continuing to fight these issues, me and many others decided to stop putting work into it because if a community wasn't going to bother doing anything to ensure its members are safe and protected, then fuck them.
There is some good news, however. I've worked with groups such as Breaking Convention who published my version of a safer spaces policy that me and another organiser drew up. They hosted their first diversity panel to which I was invited to speak at and they plan on continually doing more on these important subjects. They awarded me a Research Award in 2017 and I spoke about my paper, which was on ecofeminism and psychedelic philosophy, and I was able to talk about these issues in both talks. Many came up to me to tell me how important this was to them, and some also talked about the policy being so important and such a relief to see. I'm not quite sure where to end aside from that I hope that things improve and that these spaces are made to actually reflect what they claim to. As I (unfortunately) have so much to say on this, I might update this post soon with more things I have experienced. If these issues are important to you, please feel free to contact me as I am happy to listen, provide support and/or signpost to other services which may help.
Have you ever wondered why survivor knowledge is ignored or considered unreliable? Or, have you ever considered people who have experienced trauma as being a mad, or doubted their credibility? Maybe you have felt uncomfortable with them sharing Have you ever felt that abusive behaviour might be a form of mental illness?
When I talk about survivors, I mean someone who have survived quite traumatic things and periods. I have been thinking about this, how books such as Searching for a Rose Garden: challenging psychiatry, fostering mad studies show that Survivor knowledge show that survivor knowledge has consistently been devalued, ignored, and pathologised. Pathologised means when it is regarded or treated as psychologically abnormal. It seems all a bit to convenient to me, for people who actually - more than anyone - understand oppressive and power dynamics are then immediately discounted from having a 'reliable', 'objective' and 'sensible' opinion.
The idea that from trauma people are somehow all of a sudden seen as 'mad', 'disturbed' and untrustworthy, is something that we all need to question. When I have looked very intensly at anti-psychiatry, mad studies and mental health policy, what comes up is that these different mental landscapes are not mad at all. They are absolutely fair enough, and they are much more complex than just being negative like our culture would have us believe. For example, voice hearers often hear voices because of extreme trauma (or they can simply be born with this experience) and they can learn to navigate the voices so that they are actually complementing their life (for more information, check out Eleanor Longden).
Many who express difficulties after trauma are then put into bxes which calls their mental landscapes wrong and incorrect, such as 'mental illness'. For example, with regard to myself, there is at least 7 nouns that I can think of that I can be put into. This, however, is not accurate, it is not sophisticated enough. We have transplanted a medical model of health onto the mind - which it is not equipped for. New frameworks are being officially recognised because of this problem, such as the Power, Threat, Meaning Framework which aims to problematise the diagnostic manual and to highlight that actually, these things are understandable responses to abuse of power and have important meanings, as I showed above with the voice hearing experiences. Of course, I'm not saying that struggling psychologically is all daisies are roses. Mental distress which is something that needs to be addressed, however, very simplistic notions of so-called 'mental illness' which are used to describe any mind that isn't considered 'normal' (also made up) and is still extremely out of date - and not only that but is actually making the mental distress worse.
If we think about psychological responses to trauma: these are very reasonable responses to unreasonable circumstances. When someone is called 'mentally ill', their perspective and their experiences are immediately cancelled out. They are devalued and seen as 'not reliable'. However, I would like to take issue with this mainstream norm, as it seems all too convenient to use mental illness as a scapegoat and is a way to individualise these issues, which actually leads to a culture where we blame the survivor, and it means we not address the wider power dynamics at play. Although I disagree with the binary notions of 'mental wellness' and 'mental illness, if we are going to have the terms - why on earth don't we consider abusive behaviours such as misogyny, racism, etc, as forms of of mental illness? If we are going to have them, shouldn't they address behaviours that cause huge amounts of trauma to people?
As Hannah Gadsby says: "I know what some of you are thinking. Misogyny - is that a mental illness? *Laughs*. Uh yeah. YEAH it is. Because if you hate what you desire, do you know what that is? Fucking tense!'
When survivors of violence come out, one of the first thing that is discussed at length and really considered is whether or not they are lying. Their credibility is immediately doubted. Their truthfulness. This is steeped in so much messed up history which I can go into another time. My main point here is: the evidence shows that this proportion is VERY small. Believe me, from a someone who is a survivor, it is not something people are going to bother lying about. The risk for themselves and their loved ones is too great - especially considering the people who harm women and femmes the most is their loved ones. This is all while the actual ABUSIVE BEHAVIOUR is comparatively much less scrutinised.
"Research for the Home Office suggests that only 4% of cases of sexual violence reported to the UK police are found or suspected to be false. Studies carried out in Europe and in the US indicate rates of between 2% and 6%." - The Conversation
That is why when someone comes to me with an experience that they've had, I believe them. This is why I urge readers to also believe what people say. They might not even want to take things further, because the system does not provide support in helpful ways, they may want someone just to listen. Or, they may want to take things further. The odds are too stacked up against people who come forward for them to bother to do so unless it is true. So please, let's stop doubting the credibility of survivors and examine the actual abusive behaviour that they have suffered - let's focus on the person who has actually caused harm and how best to redress these instances of power abuse.
First post! And I want to ask you, how are you finding this period? Fucking intense right?! Recently, things have been quite hectic for a number of people and Life seems to be pretty tough at the moment for many of us. For myself, I fractured my spine in March and I am still recovering at the moment (August). There has been other shit themes but I will keep it brief for now:
How had recovering from an injury impacted me?
Firstly, it has allowed me to appreciate things more. Being away from home, my partner, both in hospital and recovering at my mums has meant that I can notice and appreciate the smallest of things with such joy. I am trying to really savour all of that. Appreciating my physical health at the same time in ways that I haven't before. So frustrating though! That I still can't move and function in the ways that I am used to without discomfort or pain. I have found that very difficult, and the difficulities that come with being dependant is very distressing, especially for someone who until the accident I had been trying to become one independent femme.
Ironically (in terms of the appreciating physical health) it has also really stressed me out and I've reverted back to smoking unfortunately, which is something that people especially with PTSD-like symptoms find it quite hard to refrain from when things get difficult. For me, when things get back, I find it so hard to fight the addiction. It has been weird to get used to pain, and feel annoyed at others for not understanding the context sometimes. Being a Human must be so physically difficult for so many people! Understandably as well, my mind has struggled quite a bit with long periods of being lonely and isolated. It has encouragingly also meant that I have done much work on maintenance and self-care activities and therapies, so this is a double edged sword.
Looking forward to the mars retrograde being over late August.